Evaluating night-time light sources and correlation with socio-economic development using high-resolution multi-spectral Jilin-1 satellite imagery of Quito, Ecuador

C. Scott Watson, John R. Elliott, Marco Córdova, Jonathan Menoscal and Santiago Bonilla-Bedoya
Taylor & Francis
Academic publication
May 2023

Atificial light at night (ALAN) has positive and negative effects on social, economic, environmental, and ecological systems, and will increase with urban expansion. In this study, we used a multi-spectral 1.5 m resolution night-time acquisition from a Jilin-1 satellite over the city of Quito, Ecuador, to evaluate spatial lighting patterns in an expanding and topography complex built environment. We demonstrated a requirement for robust georeferencing and orthorectification due to the complex topography, with errors on the order of 4–6 pixels (5.8–8.4  m CE95). We also quantified differences in observed brightness due to the image acquisition and local geometry. Street light type was distinguishable between high-pressure sodium (HPS) and light emitting diode (LED) sources (F1-score = 0.72–0.83) using a shark random forest decision tree approach. Additionally, street lights could be located within 10 m (F1- score = 0.71) with balanced omissions and commissions. Spatial trends revealed that the road network was the dominant source of illumination, accounting for 45% of illuminated pixels, whereas built-up areas accounted for 23%. Overall, 68% of all illuminated pixels were on or within 10 m of the road. Higher socio-economic development was associated with higher proportions of LED lighting, greater road network lighting and density of street lights, higher overall radiance for built-up areas and the road network, and greater coverage and illumination of designated green spaces. The broad impacts of ALAN mean that addressing the causes and consequences of lighting inequalities is a complex issue. Nonetheless, Jilin-1 night time imagery offers a low-cost way to map and monitor light sources at high-resolution that will be beneficial to city-planners and progressing Sustainable Development Goals.